Grampa Dan's Bench
By Allen Scovil
It was a little after lunch on a sunny, summer day; so, nine-year-old Mark ran down into the basement to find the lawn darts. He then took them out into the backyard and started to fling them into the air to see how high and how far he could throw them; then fetching them from where they had fallen.
"What are you up to?" came a gruff voice from the shady side of the shed where Mark's father stored the lawn tractor.
"Huh?" Mark pulled up short. "Oh, hi Grampa Dan. I'm playing lawn darts."
"Are you indeed?" Grampa Dan was sitting on a bench and leaning back against the shed, his straw hat down over his eyes. "Come on over here and let's chat." He patted the bench where he was inviting Mark to sit.
Mark hesitated. Grampa Dan shifted the hat back on his head and looked at him. "What's the matter? You're not scared of your old grampa, are you?"
Mark knew he wasn't scared of him the way he was scared of bullies or those strangers the teachers at school always warn you about; but, it was just that this was Grampa Dan. He reluctantly approached, and, when he was in range, his grampa grabbed him and gave him a good tickle before allowing him to sit. Grampa Dan then leaned back again and positioned his hat so that he could see this time.
"Why do you sit here, Grampa Dan?" Mark asked as he swung his legs. "Isn't it boring and stuff?"
Grampa Dan chuckled hoarsely and worked to relight his pipe, which was always going out. "It's peaceful, boy," he said finally, and blew a smoke ring, to Mark's delight. "I can sit here all afternoon and think, if I don't fall asleep."
"What do you think about?"
"Hmm. About where I've been, and what I've done, and where I'm going."
"Where are you going?"
This sort of talk made Mark uncomfortable; but, he was curious. "When?"
"Got no idea." He had a brief fit of coughing. "Soon enough, Lord knows, though I don't deserve it." He lowered his voice. "Things I've done, you see, and things I've said, especially to your gramma Lisa."
"But you loved Gramma Lisa, didn't you?"
"More than you'll know, boy." He pulled on his pipe. "But that doesn't stop a man from being proud and mule-headed sometimes. I'm sure she's already in heaven, having put up with the likes of me for so long; but I learned one day."
When his grampa stayed silent too long, Mark prompted, "What did you learn?"
"Hm? Oh, one day I happened to catch her in the bedroom. She was praying, and I guess she never heard me come in. She was asking God to forgive me; but, when she asked Him for the strength so that she could forgive me too, why, that just tore me all up inside. I snuck out of the house again and went to have a long talk with the pastor."
He sighed deeply and checked his pipe. It had gone out again. "I made it up to her after that. Just in time, too. She was gone before the end of the year." He relit the pipe. "But now, when I think of where I've been and the things that I've done, I can truthfully say, 'Thank you, Lord.'" He smiled wistfully and blew a streamer of smoke into the breeze. "That's why I find it peaceful here. This bench is where I can talk with Him about those things and, when I do, He tells me they've all been fixed."
Grampa Dan went silent again; but, after a minute, Mark could hear a light snoring. He waited for a moment, then carefully removed the pipe from his grampa's hand and placed it onto the bench as he had seen his father do once. He then headed off to find someone to play with.
Allen Scovil says that his writing experience has been to learn how to write a novel the hard way. This started in 2003 when he was inspired after being bothered by the fact that magic was portrayed as something neither good nor bad in the Harry Potter series. Even though Allen hadn't written since high school, he took on the task of showing that giving a young lad magic was clearly a bad thing. Allen is the father of four now-adult children, and is expecting his first grandchild in February. He works two part-time businesses (piano tuning and bookkeeping) and two part-time jobs (janitor, bus driver). Strangely enough, Allen is quick to say that he isn't overworked.
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